A fad or a necessary tool for high performance? An interview with the professional who visited big names in football

Article by Remus Dino, Daniel Gregor – Published Tuesday, 06 September 2022, 15:27 / Updated Tuesday, 06 September 2022 15:29

Mental training: a fad or a necessary tool on the road to success? Coach Bogdan Grepensia reveals to GSP.ro readers the essence of a practice already rooted in elite sport, with a growing following in Romania as well.

“Learn to train your body and your mind,” suggests Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Roger Federer, among the most admired tennis players in history, confirms the point: “Mental strength is one of the most important factors in having a successful career.”

This is where mental training comes in, which is key to developing an unbeatable mindset. It is defined as “personal support that helps athletes improve their potential to achieve a high level of performance.”

Bogdan Gripencia, the mental coach that Romanian footballers “signed up” for.

Mental training has long been ignored by athletes and club managers alike, and it is gathering more and more followers in Romanian sports as well. In order to get a clearer picture of the phenomenon, GSP.ro contacted one of the main “representatives”.

Around Bogdan Gharibenciaa young but experienced coach in the field, which he has been involved in “full time” since 2015.

Bogdan has been working with Eli Buenaro, the current coach at UTA, for over 3 years. He was with him when he was training Academica Clinceni and worked closely with several players in the best season in the club’s history, 2020/2021, crowned with a place in the League 1 playoffs.

Meanwhile, he expanded his portfolio. Many Romanian athletes, especially football players, crossed the threshold and began to work on strengthening their mental strength. Among the “general” clients, with whom Bogdan was photographed and shown on social networks, were Larisa Jurdach, Raul Roscoe, Adrian Ott and Octavian Popescu.

– Mr. Gripensa, how would you advise yourself? Mental trainer, sports psychologist?
The term that works best is the mental trainer.

Mental training is an increasingly popular component of athlete training. How important is this to achieving peak performance in your opinion?
– 99% matter. The athlete succeeds or fails primarily as a result of the mental factor. There are talented footballers who do not play well if they are not mentally healthy, and there are also footballers who may not be talented but who are able to produce a lot precisely because they are healthy.

“Full reluctance at first”

– How do we view this “mental training”? Has it become a habit for athletes or is it a fad or an anomaly?
– I can tell you how it happened in my case. She first worked with Ilie Poenaru, and then came to Clinceni. There was complete hesitation at first, and over the next 6-8 months I built relationships with the players until they understood the man behind the mental training. Then all customers came from recommendations, on the idea of ​​”go there, it’s good”. In this way, mental training is accepted. Otherwise, when a colleague does not advise football players, you have noticed There is a mindset of “I don’t have problems, why should I go to a mental trainer?”. It seems you don’t go to a mental trainer unless you are isolated.

– Let’s understand that most clients in sports come from football.
– yes. I work with players from about 7 teams in League 1.

– Tell us what a typical meeting consists of, some general characteristics.
– Division into categories: Each meeting has two parts. Part methods, working with the subconscious, working with the conscious side, training, with questions. There is still a small dose of suggestions regarding my experience. There are football-related suggestions but they make sense. Mostly, they are ways of dealing with problems through the subconscious, which is a type of meditation. This method I use is called Theta Healing.

– Healing theta?
A type of meditation that reaches the subconscious, through which it is possible to change mental programs and release negative emotions.

– back…
– Then we have the training part, during which the players are consciously told what can get them out of that state. If you want, I can give you an example.

– Excuse me.
– The player has times in the game where he has to pass and times he has to shoot. Either way, nothing comes of it. Often, the confidence of the player, because it boils down to the result, drops to the fact that it did not work out. Then I ask questions: “Okay, let’s see the stage. What happened here? What went wrong, what could you have done differently?”

– So…
– We follow 3 big aspects: the position occupied, whether it is good or not, the moment of movement and speed. With his question, the football player becomes aware of trivial things. Mental training does not work miracles. Aside from the treatment part, Theta Healing, it’s totally normal, and simple stuff.

– In a way, you guide them to find the answers themselves.
– yes. From my point of view, few things in life are complicated. If a person asks himself the right questions, he finds the solution. “What did you have to do in order for him to succeed in his shot?” “To make myself better.” “Why weren’t you in good shape?” “Because I didn’t tell myself.” “Well, what do you think of this during training?” “Well, I’m not really informing myself.” So he realizes that he must work on it in training to develop this skill.

Bogdan Gripencia, left, next to Elie Buenaro // Image source: Instagram

Bogdan Gripensa is a mental coach: “Most athletes face the fear of making mistakes”

– How different are the aspects that are being worked on according to the sports practiced by the clients? What is the focus of those who play team sports versus those who play individual sports such as tennis?
– Not much different. I have clients in football, gymnastics, tennis and fencing as a sport. It helps that I have a good understanding of the football side of things as my level of knowledge, I’ve been doing that for a long time. But at the level of style is the same. In individual sports, you rely only on yourself. In the case of team sports, no. The mental training part also requires players to develop their ability to create relationships with others. Sometimes it happens that you are not in the right position on the field because you have a conflict with a certain teammate. In this case, teach them how to talk to their teammates. On an individual level, the focus is on stress management, the fear of making a mistake when all eyes are on you.

Is there a right moment for athletes to start working on the mental side? Is it necessary, and most beneficial to start on this path at the beginning of your career?
The right moment is when the child begins to exercise. Athletes generally don’t achieve because they didn’t train their confidence when they were young. I don’t blame anyone, but that’s how it goes. The athlete becomes an adult and is influenced by the opinion of others, with the fear of making a mistake. This is the symptom most people experience: the fear of making a mistake. The earlier you start working on the mental side, the more immune you become to it as an adultMentally very strong. First, the player must have physical fitness, fitness, motivation and a sense of strength.

– What is the process by which the athlete comes to cooperate with you?
– First, the athlete falls, feels pain. He knows his last level is below what he was able to do in the past, he feels like he’s no longer in control, there are obstacles when the ball is at his feet and he thinks he needs help. This is when referrals happen and come to me. The second step is to create a relationship with the player, otherwise cooperation will not work. Sometimes this takes a session. Other times, more. The athlete understands that he came here because He is in constant development until he quit football. All but one or two of the clients I have have not left after they first came.

‘Like a dentist’

The truth then is that athletes look out for you especially when they are going through sensitive moments, not because they want to go to the next level when they are already doing well.
– It’s like a dentist. If it does not hurt your table, do not go to a consultation. The same pattern is followed.

– A large number of famous football players from local football have crossed your limit, as far as I can see on your Instagram page. When did this “collapse” of hits start?
– I wouldn’t say it was an avalanche, it happened gradually. It all goes back to Ilie Poenaru, who I worked with and still do. She later worked with a large part of the group of academics at Clincy. Because there were results, there were recommendations. So they came one this month, the other the next month, and so on. Only now the avalanche appears, and it seems that there are many more. I believe a lot in this process, in building relationships.

– In conclusion, what are your recommendations for young Romanian footballers who are preparing to take a step into a team abroad and will change the environment, teammates and culture?
– Be the first to arrive and the last to leave from training. To be 100% committed and think about everything they do, ask questions. To suggest specific goals, to work on certain aspects: passes, shots, dribbling, positioning. To closely monitor the progress of the training, because everything that happens there accumulates and turns into behavior. If they give 100% on a small scale, they develop the mentality of a hero, thus increasing their chances of adaptation. If training is done only due to inertia, then consciousness disappears.

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